|July 1, 2010|
Street Killings Prompt Police to Increase Overnight Patrols
By KAREN ZRAICK and NATE SCHWEBER
The Police Department is increasing overnight patrols after a recent spate of killings on the street, mostly in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Normally, about 65 percent of all shootings take place outdoors, according to the police. But over the past 28 days, about 90 percent occurred on the street, leading the police to believe that high-visibility patrols could deter violence and catch criminals shortly after they act.
Police officials said the number of officers on the street from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in 23 precincts could double or even triple, using dedicated overtime funds.
“In all likelihood, the shift will continue through July 4 and beyond, unless shooting patterns suggest that we readjust again,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman.
The move comes as the police try to hold down the homicide rate, which is up 11 percent through the end of June. But department officials said they were battling their own success. The homicide rate last year was the lowest since the department’s switch in 1963 to what it considered a more reliable system of tracking killings.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the preponderance of street shootings suggested that “enforcement and aggressive strategies” might have an impact.
“We’re always concerned, and we do everything we reasonably can to deploy our resources,” Mr. Kelly added.
At the start of the recession, many wondered whether economic forces would propel the city toward “the bad old days” around 1990, when killings peaked at 2,245. Those fears have not been realized. As of June 27, there had been 221 killings this year.
Citywide, major crime over all was down 1.3 percent, but there were some notable increases. Rapes rose 13 percent, and shootings were up 7 percent. Grand larceny fell 7 percent.
Thomas A. Reppetto, an author and the former president of the Citizens Crime Commission, said he had seen the homicide rate rise in the first half of previous years, only to come down again. “I would suspect looking at these figures and the past years that we will end up at about the same level of crime in 2010 as we had in 2009,” he said. “Not necessarily in every category, but overall.”
But the police must act swiftly to address emerging patterns, Mr. Reppetto added.
Robert Johnson, 50, a cook, said he had noted an increase in violent crime around his home near Broadway Junction in Brooklyn. On June 20, a 31-year-old man was fatally shot across the street from a playground where he takes his grandchildren.
“The last year has been real crazy,” Mr. Johnson said, citing previous shootings on nearby Hull Street. “I come in a little earlier. When it gets dark, I take them in,” he said of the children.
In fact, the 73rd Precinct, where the park is, had 10 killings, as did the 81st Precinct, also in Brooklyn. The only precincts with more were the 75th, in East New York, Brooklyn, which had 15, and the 47th, in the north Bronx, with 11.
In the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn on Wednesday night, three people were shot, one fatally, while watching a basketball tournament at Kingston Park.
Jamal Jones, 23, said he had organized the tournament, which featured star players from local high schools and drew a crowd of about 100. “It was ugly, people getting trampled,” said Mr. Jones, who sustained a graze wound to his arm. “They’re lucky, because it could have been a whole lot worse.”
Craig Powell, 42, a schoolteacher who has lived in the area for 36 years, brought his daughters, 9 and 7, to the park on Thursday afternoon. He said he long ago became accustomed to a rise in crime during hot weather.
“It’s just living in the ’hood, unfortunately,” he said. “You just hear about it and pray it doesn’t happen to you and yours.”